Caught by the River

Marc Bolan's Coup de Peche

30th July 2007


my old woman would’ve called david carl forbes a smarmy git. the white roll neck jumper and winkle picker waders, golden wonder cheese and onion farts, vimto in the haversack, the joiner in the white mini who runs off with the dowager’s daughter when he comes to fix the weatherboards. in 1976 i was working in the village builders merchants when dcf himself walked in and bought a boxful of copper fittings. all the plumbers looked like him and they were all on “cash only” so how would i know. the drill was to ask them if they wanted a ticket. if they didn’t you negotiated a price and put the fiver in your pocket then rushed down maidstone angling centre come saturday for some sealey flashpoints and an ounce of efgeeco or a rubber V for your back rodrest. david carl forbes said yes to the ticket and thus i discovered his name. only afterwards did it click. same with the archbishop of canterbury who came in for a palette of bricks, yellow flettons they were. no ticket too, so he wasn’t patching up the cathedral himself. (i’ve seen french mayors going round the commune with a bucket of tar filling up the holes in the road themselves to save rate payers money. ken might like a bucket of tar and a brush). point is, if you had david carl forbes copper fittings i might understand why you abandoned a quill start on bushy for a night in special ops on dambuster lagers. me, i went on armed tour, laure navigating, the spring-hanger bushes so worn they were sounding like bomb-bay doors closing on the chassis. we were three days on roads an axle wide, rabalais country, dropping through lost valleys into the loir where every crossroads looked like the one that killed camus as he travelled to paris in a traction avant with his manuscript in a cardboard suitcase.

the first pits were carp infested but booby-trapped with internal security regulations and 1 metre 9 anti-gypsy barriers too low for the landrover even minus roofrack and wheels. the leisure pit was windswept and weedy, slimy balls of poisson-chat tumbling through it like u boats on meltdown. the loir beside it crashed down a weirpool made of old chateau walls and fallen willows, the chateau spike-topped with rotton wooden shutters hanging on with one hinge. we took a room in the one bar/restraunt left standing, part of the chateau wall, a village where every garden shed is a medieval tower with battlements. chilled muscadet, rabbit and mushrooms served by a 12 year old kid, the same wallpaper they lined camus’ suitcase with, and in the morning a breakfast of home made jams in mouldy jars and coffee you could paint the railings with, all for 25 quid. old france, the one with dubonnet still painted on the gable ends of roadside cottages. the one sarkozy is going to wipe out in the affluenza wars to come when i’ll be pouring boiled porridge off the battlements of these gutted chateaux and
taking to the water mills as the tear gas drifts over the pool like a tench angler’s final dawn.

we backtracked down the loir past miles of “coup de pêche”, riverside allotments with dilapidated sheds and old platforms, the gutted mills like this one, smashed windows and collapsed pontoons. these “coup de pêche” are the remnants of the industrial ethic, the working man’s swim for life, passed down from father to son, where after a hard week assembling dynamos you drive out to your pontoon beside the river and fill a bucket with bleak and gudgeon while parafin-stove pam fries them up for supper. these allotments have begun to fall under sarkozy’s plan, becoming real estate for the urban spacemen, with their tinted windows and supermarket fishing kits, the concrete poets. but for the moment the old boys hang onto them like old shutters on a single hinge, sitting out the five o’clock shadow on an old metal tractor seat bolted to a wobbly pier. the best i saw was the one with an estate agents sign on it. a green shipplapped boat shed on stilts with the cabin up a wormholed ladder. the whole structure had shifted sideways in the wind and the vines were holding it up. the swim was on a slow wide bend, the far margins backed onto wheat fileds, lily fringed, slow and deep, overhanging willows and and an upended poplar. inside the shed the canvas chairs were shredded by the moths from camus’ suitcase. an old mitchell 300 box on the plank for a table. dead metal from flattened jerry cans once lining the balcony lifted and clapped in the wind. if “one true void” sells 100 copies i’ll go back there and buy it. i’ll assemble dynamos at night if i have to. a gravel pît not 100 yards away, a 2 star munciipal campsite with one swiss campervan in the height of the season. the campsite manager had never seen a bite alarm before and was more than baffled when he saw me lob out a pva tube full of pellet. i should have read the signs. he’d never seen a fish come out either. a 10 acre gravel pit with 6ft margins and juicy looking islands, and no signs of ever having been fished, 10 feet from our tent. he did say he’d heard that someone caught a perch… i sat it out till the moon came and went. like being back in 1976, i could’ve sat there six months without a run. not even the switch of a tiny roach. coming home yesterday through more lost valleys i saw a sign with an arrow pointed down a track: “carpiste”. we found an acre pond in the trees. it was like a digital generated carp lake, there were backlit carp suspended over the water everywhere you looked, bow waves like the d-day landings. at the snags end we found 3 lads from liverpool shell-shocked by their bivvies. the one i talked to could hardly speak, just kept murmering monsters, monsters… they were starving after 6 days without food. all they’d come with was a barbeque and burgers but they couldn’t cook it since it’d pissed down all week. too scared to leave the place and go two miles down the lane to the nearest village where they did a 9 euro 4 course “plat du jour” and sold bread and food just like liverpool. monsters? i said. runs every 10 minutes, he said. the lad on the end, he’s had a 60 pounder. who owns it? i said. he didn’t know, just some bloke comes round every day for the 160 quid and two shower tokens… there was another one, just down the lane, top secret, he said, weird place, the english aren’t allowed to fish it. so me and laure left the poor souls back-leading in a trance and sending their bait boats into the heart of darkness. down the lane we found an old turreted manor farm with an estate lake behind electronic security barriers. i managed a spy photo on the wonky zoom before the lurchers caught their first whiff and rounded the “no day fishing” sign.

the french waveny? u.n.c.l.e hq? this is where they should’ve shot the prisoner, with dick walker on special effects, emma peel on the bait boat.

three days well spent, i’m desk and garden-bound for a day or two. a 600 page novel to edit just came by stevedore and wheelbarrow, but that i can take on the next leg of “the man with the camus’ suitcase”.
dont let another book keep you from bushy. take it fishing.
copper fittings on the bird table